Friday, June 3, 2011

The Practicalities of My Job (Pt. 2)

Everything we do, and everything we plan to do, we try to do in a sustainable, replicable way. And we try very hard to not just aid the people we work with. If I buy a pot for the school, I will ask for money from the people of the village, the school, and if they can't pay for it in entirety I will get the rest of the money through a SPA Grant or a small project grant through the Peace Corps. I can also write a grant request and send it to any of the numerous NGOs that are all around me in Senegal. USAID and World Vision are the two prominent organizations around my village. Grants to some volunteers are the first place to go, to others they are the last and to some grants are viewed as completely unsustainable and not to be used.

Projects aren't all that we do here. Everyday we speak to the people around us about healthy living, for instance. Yesterday I went to the Health Post with another volunteer and taught the doctor and his family how to make lekki bowdi or Anti-mosquito cream. There is a tree, the Newakim tree or Neem tree, that is everywhere in senegal, including the bunch 100 feet from my backyard. Boiling two handfuls of Neem leaves in water releases a potent anti-insect chemical, and when the Neem water is mixed with a shaved bar of soap and a bit of oil, a creamy lotion is created that when applied to your skin wards off insects. We make this specifically to ward off mosquitoes, and even more specifically mosquitoes that carry malaria

I've invited people to the health worker's house in my village for the same lesson tomorrow. But it's true that everything is give and take. The anecdotes I've heard about teaching how to make "Neem Cream" tell of villagers that don't want to make it, or want you to make it for them, or they say they want to make it but never buy the materials for it (soap and a little oil, around 200 CFA (the cost of 8 small bags of peanuts, or 4 lollipops, or almost a pack of Ronson Cigarettes which everyone in my village smokes, or 40 cents but that one's neither here nor there)).

My method will be I'll make it and let people apply it to their skin, then I will take the rest for myself and my family. If anyone wants to make it I will be more than happy to visit their home and help them, but they need to buy the materials. Some volunteers sell it, at 25 or 50 CFA a bag, from a recipe that makes around 30 bags. Villagers could sell it as well, and you could make a killing... saving lives! Hah.

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